The fallout from TEPCO’s informational blunder last week, continues. While all experts on the phenomena agree the Xenon discovered in unit #2’s Primary Containment is due to spontaneous fission, many admonish TEPCO for needlessly causing fears and creating doubts about the Company’s level of expertise…

  • Koji Okamoto, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tokyo, supported spontaneous fission, “I also calculated the amount of xenon from the data that TEPCO released and found it was about the same as the amount produced due to spontaneous fission.” However, Fumiya Tanabe, director of
    the Institute of Nuclear Safety Systems Inc. suggest TEPCO’s handling of the issue indicates deep administrative problems, “The problem is that TEPCO pointed to the possibility of ‘criticality’ taking place, if only temporarily,” and,  “It eventually showed that the utility failed to predict the situation of fuel rods or the present internal state of the reactor.” (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Katsutada Aoki, formerly of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, also criticized TEPCO saying the utility could have avoided needless fears. Aoki said, “The discovery of xenon in the reactor is no reason to fear anything serious. Chances of a criticality taking place is practically [unthinkable] at this point.” He then added, “TEPCO’s initial announcement and later downplaying of the possibility of a criticality event only adds to the impression that the firm does not have the situation under control.” Meanwhile, TEPCO made another attempt to mitigate the situation when a spokesperson said, “We only mentioned [nuclear criticality] because the analysis was incomplete at that point and there was a possibility [of such a scenario]. It’s regrettable that it caused unease since the word ‘criticality’ is easily misinterpreted as a serious condition by the public.” (Japan Times) In other words, TEPCO went public before fully understanding what they were saying.

Other updates…

  • There has been a recent barrage of insidious and aggressive viruses attacking Japanese government and military (Self Defense) computer systems. The source of the onslaught has been traced to a remote region of China, but the exact location is unknown. Considerable informational “leaks” have been discovered, and serious damage has been done to some operating systems. Last week, the government asked all nuclear utilities to report if they have been attacked. It turns out three of them have detected attempts to infect their systems, but firewalls have stopped them. (NHK World)
  • Tatsuhiko Kodama, head of the Radioisotope Center at the University of Tokyo, has begun a detailed survey of the radiation levels inside the 20km no-go zone around Fukushima Daiichi. Accompanied by “some journalists”, Kodama found that small parts of the southern zone were at less than 0.23 microsieverts per hour, the national standard for decontamination. Levels soon increased to 0.45 microsieverts as they drove north. Moving closer to the power complex, radiation levels naturally increased, with a 10 microsievert reading in the towns of Okuma and Futaba and 22 microsieverts near the power plant property boundary. At the southern edge of Minamisoma the reading was 0.36 microsieverts, but the town’s levels decreased to 0.1 microsieverts as they neared the northern no-go zone border. Lastly, Kodama surveyed a fishing port of Namie, just six kilometers from the power complex, and the reading was 0.08 microsieverts. “Rather than drawing lines uniformly by distance, the central government should examine radiation levels in detail and decide to allow people to enter the evacuation zone to do decontamination or construction work,” Kodama said. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • TEPCO has begun the removal of Cesium isotopes from spent fuel pool (SPF) #2. While the concentrations of Cesium are many times lower than the waste waters in the turbine basements, its removal from the SPF water will speed up the process of removing salt caused by seawater sprays in March and April. Salt content is about one-tenth of seawater levels, but it could accelerate corrosion of the steel walls and supports inside the pool. (JAIF)
  • Some further information from the Kansai Electric Company’s stress test data concerning Ohi unit #3… The report claims Ohi’s tsunamic protection factor has been increased by 145% since March, emergency power supply longevity has been upgraded so the core can be cooled for 16 days without outside power sources, and emergency safety margins have been increased by a factor of 75. Details are not available. (JAIF)
  • A recent Environment Ministry survey found that only 54 of the more than five hundred municipalities in Japan have said they will accept tsunami waste and rubble from Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures. The reason? Vocal residents who fear that the waste might contain radioactive materials from Fukushima. The complaints are based on distrust of government health standards and the belief that any detectable Fukushima isotopes pose a health hazard.  More than 20 million metric tons of untainted rubble is left in these two prefectures, giving off foul odors and causing fires. Unless the rubble from these areas is disposed of across Japan, it will undoubtedly hinder disaster recovery efforts. Many residents of disaster areas say they feel depressed when they see the mountains of wreckage in their neighborhoods nearly eight months after the disaster. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Tokyo Governor Ishihara has lashed out at those who have protested his government for saying they will dispose of rubble from Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures. Ishihara says they received 2,868 phone calls and e-mails as of Nov. 2, protesting the rubble disposal scheme. Only 199 were in favor. “What are we going to do if we do nothing?” Ishihara asked, “Those capable of helping must help. They (opponents) care only about themselves.” He added that if these phone callers are indicative of the Japanese public-at-large, then, “It is proof that the Japanese people have gone bad.” He then explained  what happens before the rubble is shipped to Tokyo, “They are not bringing in rubble incessantly emitting radiation. They are bringing it in because checks (for radioactive contamination) have proved there is nothing wrong with it. Tokyo is not that foolish.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Nuclear Accident Minister Goshi Hosono has said that tsunami-caused rubble and debris in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures is not radioactive and incineration of the burnable material will not produce anything harmful. (JAIF)
  • Hosono has also announced the government will investigate into the risks of low level radiation exposure below 20 millisieverts (msv). He acknowledged there is no statistical evidence of negative health effects below 100 msv, but public concerns with the government’s initial 20 msv exposure limit has driven the new investigation. He added there have been numerous conflicting studies about low level exposure risks and the investigation might ease the controversy. (JAIF)
  • Radioactivity has been found in the urine of some Fukushima children. Out of more than 1,500 samples of children under 6 years old, 104 had detectable levels of Cesium. None, however, came anywhere near the national standard. All but one detectable sample showed  20 to 30 becquerels per liter, which is barely detectable. The other was 187 Becquerels, but even that is 3 times lower than the standard. (NHK World)